Calls grow for an urgent review of England’s wood-burning stoves

<span>Photography: Kathy deWitt/Alamy</span>” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/” “–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/″/>9</div>
<p><figcaption class=Photography: Kathy deWitt/Alamy

Politicians and activists have called for an urgent review of wood stoves, which cause a great deal of pollution in urban areas.

The calls follow an admission by the environment secretary that the government had set weaker air pollution targets than it would like. The admission came as he announced a new environmental plan for England that stopped short of banning wood-burning stoves and settled for “educating” people about their use.

The Times subsequently reported that the government would encourage councils to use their powers to fine homeowners £300 on the spot for flouting air pollution regulations by burning logs in their homes.

But Green Party co-leader Carla Denyer said the government should go further and potentially end the sale of wood burners.

She said: “Local authorities have powers to create smoke control areas in cities under the Environment Act 2021. This helps prevent homeowners and businesses from releasing smoke from a chimney. However, there are exemptions for particular stoves and fuels that still mean that hazardous particles can be released into the atmosphere.

Related: My burning shame: I equipped my house with three wood stoves | Jorge Monbiot

“We need an urgent review of the public health impacts of smoke from chimneys in high-density housing areas, with a view to ending future sales of wood burners and fuels if they are shown to have an unacceptable detrimental impact.” .

Environmental charity ClientEarth, which has won pollution cases against the government, has said the burners should be phased out. Andrea Lee, from the charity, said: “Pollution from burning wood is a growing source of fine particle pollution in some areas, which is a serious threat to people’s health.”

The Lib Dems have called for more powers for local councils to stop the use of polluting burners. A spokesperson said they were disappointed that the ban on domestic charcoal and wet wood had taken so long to pass.

“The new eco-design has reduced air pollution from wood-burning stoves, but more needs to be done, including encouraging households to replace older wood-burning stoves with the new design. We believe that local authorities should have more powers to address air pollution in their areas,” the spokesperson said.

Under the Environment Act 2021, local councils have the power to issue civil penalties on the spot of up to £300. Government plans to encourage councils to take action mean criminal proceedings could be launched for the most persistent offenders, resulting in a fine of up to £5,000 plus another £2,500 for each day the offense continues.

Yet English councils have issued just 17 fines in six years, despite more than 18,000 complaints, as it is difficult and expensive to prove guilt and then take people to court. Few councils have the resources to vigorously address this specific issue.

There will also be stricter regulation of new wood burners, which in designated “smoke control areas” will not be able to produce more than 3g of smoke per hour, instead of the current 5g.

Sarah MacFadyen, policy director for Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said: “We know that burning wood and coal release fine particulate matter, the form of air pollution of greatest concern to human health, which can cause people with a lung disease such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease to have a life-threatening attack or flare-up.

“Therefore, it is important to consider less polluting fuel options for heating your home or cooking, especially if coal or wood are not your primary fuel source.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *